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Supreme Court blocks order requiring La. to form a second Black congressional district

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan would have denied the request, the court’s brief order said. 
The Supreme Court on Jan. 27, 2022.
The Supreme Court on Jan. 27.Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images file

The Supreme Court blocked a lower court order Tuesday that required Louisiana to create a second congressional district where Black voters are in the majority.

The justices granted an emergency request from the state’s Republican attorney general and secretary of state, who said the Legislature cannot draw two minority districts without segregating voters primarily on the basis of race, which they said would be unconstitutional.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan would have denied the request, the court’s brief order said. 

A lower court judge’s ruling requiring the creation of a second Black district “throws the election process into chaos, tossing Louisiana into divisive electoral pandemonium,” the state Republicans said.

Louisiana kept its allotment of six members of the U.S. House as a result of the 2020 census, and the Legislature drew new boundaries for districts that included one where Black voters were in the majority, the same as before the census. But that prompted a lawsuit that said that because the state’s population is one-third Black, a third of the congressional districts should be ones where minority voters were in the majority.

The state officials urged the Supreme Court to grant their motion quickly because the period for candidates to qualify for the ballot is approaching quickly. “But it is impossible for them to qualify with no congressional districts in place,” they said.

The court earlier agreed to consider what obligations states have under what’s left of federal voting protections to create districts in which minority voters are the majority. In past years, the Voting Rights Act required states with histories of racial discrimination to seek permission from the Justice Department or a federal court before new political maps could take effect. But the Supreme Court did away with the requirement in 2013.

The high court will examine the issue in October in a case from Alabama. 

The round of redistricting now underway is taking place with no obligation for states to seek pre-clearance. In the past, they had to justify their changes in advance, but new boundaries will now take effect unless they are blocked by the courts in response to lawsuits.